SMART Professional Development: Tech Training Benefits School Leaders
Decision makers and ICT implementers benefit when they share successful experiences in technology integration.
If schools are to realize the full potential of their investment in technology, then professional development in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) is essential, not just for teachers, but for administrators and implementers. Just as teachers need to know how to use a broad range of tools and resources to best serve students, administrators and implementers need to know how to integrate technology in the classroom that ensures curriculum-based, appropriate use.
How can these key personnel develop this complex and specialized knowledge? SMART Technologies is providing a platform for knowledge sharing, through bringing together education leaders to share their experiences of successful classroom technology implementation.
"Teachers aren’t the only ones who benefit from professional development," says Andrew Exner, product solutions manager, education, at SMART Technologies. "When decisions makers and implementers take our administrator's best practices course or attend one of our Learning Matters seminars, the benefit to their districts is clear. Everyone in the education spectrum—teachers, implementers, and administrators—are involved in that implementation, and those that use ICT products require a specific, highly developed skill set. By offering professional development seminars and webinars, we’re providing this audience with the widest view and broadest spectrum on how to effectively and efficiently implement ICT."
The focus behind all the professional development training SMART offers—at the administrator, implementer, or teacher level—is on the outcome at the student level, according to Richard Rush, senior manager, training and courseware, at SMART Technologies. "We want to teach the skills that make technology effective for students," says Rush. "When we look at all our professional development offerings, we ask, 'Are we meeting that goal?' That’s the entire focus of our training and professional development programs—to allow extraordinary moments to happen in the classroom for student learning."
To gain the type of professional development knowledge Exner and Rush extol, Linda Williams, a technology specialist at Hillsborough County Schools (Tampa, Fla.), attended SMART’s Learning Matters seminar, "Technology Strategies for Success." "Although I have been in education for 38 years," says Williams, "I was enlightened by the information shared at SMART’s Learning Matters seminar. It reaffirmed what I had been doing, while providing me with new ideas and insights that have led to improvements in our district. By being exposed to viewpoints from people that are not directly in the classroom—by those who support and train teachers—I have gained real-world skills that I’ve applied in my daily work."
Williams continues, "I've attended the full-day and the three-day training sessions with SMART Technologies. All the SMART training that I've attended has been the highest caliber of training that I have received from any company. At every SMART training seminar that I've attended, I've come away with at least 25 percent more knowledge than I had when I walked in the door. Beyond the seminars, SMART has a well-developed and easy-to-use online training system. I often go on the SMART Web site and view the tutorials or download supporting documents. Their materials are very easy to refer back to."
According to Williams, at each of the professional development seminars she participated in—and she’s attended many over the years—she has "picked up numerous tips and important information" that she didn’t know before attending the event. During the most recent Learning Matters seminar she attended, Williams participated in a number of useful training sessions, including one conducted by Dr. Mel Pace, director of media and instructional technology at Osceola County School District.
In his presentation, Dr. Pace discussed the basics of integrating technology into the daily classroom activities and the process and procedures for evaluating new 21st century technologies. "In today's environment, administrators and implementers have a lot on their plate," says Dr. Pace. "Therefore, our main focus in the seminar was to keep it simple and systematic—truly narrowing the focus on how to get technology integrated into the classroom. When a district purchases technology from different vendors and make a patchwork out of it, it often doesn't work as well as something integrated. When technology doesn't perform, teachers move back to old practices. Our goal in providing this type of professional development is to explain the virtues of implementing a program or initiative where everything is connected and works seamlessly. The information provided in the seminar works to back up excellent, highly functional technology with appropriate professional development to make sure the technology is implemented in the most effective way."
The Steel Valley School District in Pennsylvania is seeing the type of success with their ICT implementation that Dr. Pace envisions. The district piloted SMART Board™ interactive whiteboards four years ago, and they now have every math classroom outfitted with SMART Board interactive whiteboards. Recently, the District participated in a three-day SMART certification training that has proved to be a catalyst for dramatic improvement in their efficiency and effective use of the technology, according to the District’s Mathematics Department Chair, Beth McCallister.
"The training we received from SMART was by far the best training session that I have ever experienced," says McCallister. "The instructor was very knowledgeable, patient, encouraging, friendly, and an all-around great presenter. The teachers who were part of the sessions agree with me and are extremely excited to take back all the information they learned and share it with their peers."
The sharing of knowledge spurred by the training has paid off in very tangible ways for Steel Valley School District. According to McCallister, the District’s middle school principal now credits SMART Board interactive whiteboards with improving the school’s performance on state-mandated test scores. "We've gone from 35 percent of our students proficient in the last five years to 79 percent efficient," says McCallister. "We've increased at least 40 percentage points in math. In part, I credit that improvement to the SMART Boards. The SMART Boards get the kids much more involved, and they add more interactivity to our classrooms."
According to McCallister, one of the Steel Valley teachers who participated in the SMART training had just recently received a SMART Board interactive whiteboard for her classroom. "She was very nervous about being part of the certification training," says McCallister. "However, during the course of the three days, she gained the necessary confidence to use her SMART Board to its full potential."
Confidence and proficiency is growing in Steel Valley. "The SMART training gave us the time to explore the technology—to feel more comfortable with it," McCallister concludes. "Today, when teachers are in front of the class, they have more confidence in their abilities with the SMART Board. Many of our teachers, even those in the Math Department that have been using the boards for years, now know how to create their own interactive lessons from knowledge they acquired during their SMART training. The Notebook software lessons that we’ve created in-house are put in a network folder for all of us to use. The money our district spent—and the time that our teachers put toward SMART professional development—was well worth it."